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Battle of the Bulge


In 1965, impossibly wide Cinerama screens were filled corner to corner with stars and WW2 action in the box office hit BATTLE OF THE BULGE.

Robert Shaw, hot off his film debut in OO7's "From Russia With Love" stars as German tank commander Colonel Hessler. The best the Germans have, he's put in charge of a major attack near Belgium that would have turned the tide of the war back to the Nazi forces.

As Christmas 1944 nears, popular opinion is that the Germans have surrendered and troops are ready to head home. Luckily for us, we have Henry Fonda starring as Lt. Col. Kiley, who is convinced that a tank attack is coming.

Much like the lone voices sounding the alarm pre-Pearl Harbor, he's largely ignored until its far too late and the Panzers are rolling into US camps.

The film is massive in size and scope, with nearly three hours of military planning and action. The first third is mostly planning, but Director Ken Annakin (The Longest Day, Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines) serves up almost constant action in the final two hours.

Dana Andrews, Robert Ryan, George Montgomery lead the cast, with Charles Bronson in one of his first breakout roles and Telly Savalas serving up some comic relief.

While a lot of the full scale action is exciting and well shot, some of the model work is so bad it's stunning. I could have shot a couple of these sequences in my backyard with my iPhone and achieved more realism.

But anytime the camera sweeps over snowy landscapes with full size tanks and explosions, its impressive.

The film premiered at the Pacific Cinerama Dome Theatre in Hollywood on December 16 1965, the 21st anniversary of the battle.

54 years later, its an interesting tribute to the one million men and women that served in WWII.

While it may be questionable as a faithful retelling of history (Eisenhower criticized it as historically inaccurate) there's no arguing its entertainment value. BATTLE OF THE BULGE gets a respectful B-.

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